Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Healthcare

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is one of the largest pediatric clinical care providers in the United States. With three hospitals, 24 neighborhood clinics, 8,400 employees, 1,700 physicians, and 2,000 registered nurses, they manage more than 850,000 patient visits each year.

The Challenge

The mission at Children’s is “To make kids better today and healthier tomorrow,” and they have a proven track record of providing world-class care to patients in more than 60 pediatric specialties. However, along with other healthcare facilities, they are operating in an uncertain economy, with unclear impacts of healthcare reform on budgets and operations, an ever-increasing consumer demand for improvements in efficiency and quality of care, and limited resources. Children’s recognized that they needed to equip their staff with the skills to meet the challenges of the changing environment and identified leadership training as the focus.

In academic settings, nursing students learn the basic sciences, nursing theory, practices, and procedures. But they don’t spend significant time building leadership skills that support individual accountability and organizational success. Children’s decided that they could have a huge positive impact on future success by offering leadership training to their bedside nurses. According to Gail Klein, Vice President, Nursing, “We needed to build nurses’ capabilities in effective communication, peer coaching, personal mastery, and managing up.” Specifically, they needed nurses who could take ownership of care delivery by collaborating with the physician and care team, improve patient safety, prepare for career advancement from a nursing or management perspective, and engage in systems thinking to align unit practices with system strategies.

The Solution

“We considered designing our own program, but wanted to leverage the work we had already been doing with Situational Leadership® II. The challenge was figuring out a way to get so many nurses from so many shifts into a traditional training course,” explained Klein. That is when Klein learned about Blanchard Online Learning, the online leadership course for individual contributors that uses Situational Leadership® II as the foundation. The course begins with a self-analysis that helps participants better understand their own performance before learning how to manage others, and to work effectively in teams. The program was successfully piloted using a blended design of seven online lessons combined with three live debriefing sessions. Children’s developed custom videos to kick off the lesson, which highlighted examples of how the learning in that session would benefit bedside nurses. Considered a huge success, the program is now being rolled out to over 2,000 nurses over the next couple of years.


After completing the program, participants reported better understanding and communications among the team and an enhanced work environment that they believe will translate into improved nurse engagement, retention, and outcomes in each of their units. Nurses felt better equipped to connect their individual responsibilities and goals to the organization’s strategic plan.

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